Court victory for East Timor protesters

June 3, 1998

Court victory for East Timor protesters

DARWIN — Two prominent members of Australians for a Free East Timor have had convictions for disorderly conduct overturned by the NT Supreme Court.

Sally Anne Watson and Vaughan Williams were charged after 20 Indonesian military flags were burnt outside the Indonesian consulate on the 20th anniversary of the invasion of East Timor last year.

While many participated in the protest, only three East Timorese supporters were charged. The convener of Australians for a Free East Timor in Darwin, Rob Wesley-Smith, believes the charges were generated from the then police minister, now chief minister Shane Stone's office. Wesley-Smith was also charged but was later acquitted.

In granting the appeal, Justice David Angel declared that the protest was not disorderly and found that "it would be contrary to the public interest and to the values of free speech, free assembly, free association, tolerance of difference and individual autonomy, that those who, for whatever reason, do not accept the values of protesters should be able to too readily restrict the actions of peaceable protesters in the name of disorderly conduct".

Wesley-Smith described Justice Angel's decision as "an important court victory for East Timor protesters and for free speech generally".

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